The James Family

Notes by John Barnard
Updated 31 Aug 2019

The Jameses were my maternal grandfather's family. They were of Cornish origin, and for several generations in the 17th and 18th centuries they leased a property called "Trevabyn" in the hamlet of Goldsithney, part of the parish of St Hilary, a few miles east of Penzance. Their landlords were the St Aubyn family, the local landed gentry, who remain the owners of nearly St Michael's Mount to this day.

The James genealogy is complicated, with many marriages between a small number of local families (including Trevenen, Coulson, Leah, Jenkin and Gundry), though there are actually rather few marriages between blood relations. In one instance, out of four James sisters, two married two out of four Gundry brothers, the other two sisters married two Trevenen cousins, and their respective daughters married the other two Gundry brothers. One of the Trevenen cousins had one sister who married a cousin of the four James sisters (my great-great-great grandparents), while another of his sisters married their aunt's son (the only one of these marriages that actually involved people with an immediate common ancestor), whose brother was married the aunt of the four James sisters! 

Evidence from the various leases of Trevabyn, some of which are held at the Cornish Record Office, suggest the property swapped between different inter-marrying branches of the James, presumably on the basis of who was best positioned to run it.

Family Trees

The James and Trevenen Families (17th-19th centuries) [Printable PDF - A1 size]

This tree attempts to show the relationships between the different branches of the James family of Trevabyn, and the Trevenen, Gundry and Jenkin families.

The James, Coulson and Leah Families (19th-20th centuries) [Printable PDF]

This tree includes the more recent Jameses, after they had left Trevabyn, and shows their complex and multiple connections with the Coulson and Leah families. There are a lot of Coulsons still to be added, including the descendants of Thomas Coulson (1767-1845), Master Painter of Plymouth Dockyard.

Descendants of Henry Rosher James (1862-1931) [Printable PDF]

Descendants of Lionel James (1868-1948) [Printable PDF]

These two trees bring the family up to date, and I am indebted to my cousins who are shown on them for providing me with the relevant data.

Most of the people shown on the above two trees are still living and so for reasons of personal privacy and to avoid the danger of identity theft, access to them is restricted to family members. A username and password are required to see them, and can be obtained by sending an e-mail to me (see contact details). Please also keep me informed of any additions or corrections needed.

There has been a tendency for male members of the James family either to have no children, or to have only daughters. As a consequence, with the death of my uncle Robert Clabburn Trevenen James in December 2008, our branch of the James family is now extinct in the male line: there are no living descendants of my great-great-grandfather Trevenen James (1794-1867) who have the surname James. It is possible that his brothers (in particular Nicholas, who died in Australia in 1858) may have living descendants who retain the James surname, and in our branch James continues to be used (if sparingly) as a given name.

The following notes give a few more details on some members of the James family, and I hope to expand these into fuller biographies, and add more photographs and scans of original documents, in due time.

Trevenen James (1794-1867)

Trevenen James was the son of Francis James (b. 1757) of Trevabyn and his wife Anne Trevenen (b. 1758). He seems to have been the first member of the family to have broken away from yeoman farming (though it is likely that earlier generations were also involved in tin mining at Trevabyn) and by his early twenties he was Manager of the Penzance Union Bank. This was re-formed as Henry Boase, Sons & Co. in 1823, by which stage he was a partner, and in 1826, he married Catherine Coulson, daughter of a local painter. He ran into some financial difficulty in 1831, and was forced to sell his partnership in the Bank, but he evidently recovered his position over the following years, and by the mid 1840s was established in Tavistock Square in London. By this point he was sufficiently affluent to wish to establish his credentials as a Victorian Gentleman, and applied to the College of Heralds for a Grant of Arms, which he duly obtained.

He and Catherine had a large family, and some remarkable memoirs of his youngest son, Augustus Frederick James (1842-1912, also known as "Nunks", and "Uncle Dick") give a picture of their childhood in both London and Cornwall.

His Christian name of Trevenen (his mother's maiden name) has been perpetuated very strongly among his descendants, possibly because of its strong Cornish resonance. It is not unknown as a given name in other families, most prominently the Huxleys, who have descent from a Cornish Treveven family (via the wife of Thomas Arnold, the famous Rugby Headmaster), though I have not yet been able to establish a connection with my own ancestors. Trevenen James's eldest son, who died unmarried, was also named Trevenen, and the short-lived son of his youngest son had it as a middle name. Six out of his nine great-grandchildren had it, as do two of his great2-grandchildren and eight of his great3-grandchildren. Its popularity is interesting, given that the surnames of other families that married into the James's, such as Coulson and Rosher, have disappeared from subsequent generations.

George Coulson James (1828-1875)

George Coulson JamesGeorge was the second son of Trevenen and Catherine James, and he was a London solicitor, who wrote a book on Company Law. He married Susannah Elizabeth Rosher (c. 1830-1902), who came from a family of successful businessmen in Kent. He died at the early age of 47, leaving his wife with four children aged between 7 and 15. Whether it was the effect of their father's early death, or the influence of a formidable mother, or simply the advantages of affluence, all four had remarkable careers and left significant writings behind them:

Edith Emily Coulson James (1860-1936)

Edie, as she was known in the family, never married, but was an historian of renaissance Italian art, her particular interest being the Bolognese painter Francesco Raibolini (Francia). Her magnum opus was a 400-page book, "Bologna: Its History, Antiquities and Art" (Henry Frowde, OUP, 1909), which is dedicated "to the memory of my mother, with whom I first saw Bologna".

Henry Rosher James (1862-1931)

Henry Rosher JamesKnown to the family as "Bobby", for reasons I have not yet ascertained, he was educated at Westminster School (where he was School Captain) and at Christ Church Oxford. He spent much of his career in the Indian Education Service, and was Principal of Presidency College in Calcutta, now one of the most prestigious educational institutes in India. He was a prolific writer, and not only published "Education and Statesmanship in India 1797-1910" (Longmans Green & Co., 1917) in which he argued strongly in favour of the education of the native Indian people, but also a translation of the 6th century Roman author Boethius's "Consolations of Philosophy". After his retirement from India, he wrote Our Hellenic Heritage (Macmillan, Vol I (Part I, The Great Epics and Part II, The Struggle with Persia), 1921; Vol II (Part III, Athens - her Splendour and her Fall (1922) and Part IV The Abiding Splendour (1924)), a book about the history and legends of Ancient Greece, and his final work, published after his death, was a biography of the early feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft (OUP, 1931) in which he makes no secret of his own sympathy for her demands for "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman".

Henry Rosher James married Mary Hindle in 1890, and they had three children. The eldest, Harold Hindle James (1894-1969, known as Huck) served in the Royal Flying Corps in World War I, and subsequently with RAF Intelligence in Iraq. He spent much of the rest of his life in Egypt, where he was a personal friend of King Farouk's, remained there throughout the 1956 Suez Crisis, and attracted some press attention in 1967 when he was mistreated and abruptly expelled as a "British spy" (he was then aged 73!) during the Six Day War. 

Henry and Mary's daughter, Mary Hindle James (1899- c. 1995, known as Mollie) was a physiotherapist, and married an Australian farmer and businessman, Donald Mackinnon (1892-1965), who served as Australian Ambassador to the Argentine 1957-1960. Mollie wrote her own memoirs ("For All That Time Has Held", privately published 1993, ISBN 0 646 14825 7), and her many descendants live in Australia.

Their younger son, Eric Trevenen James (1904-1989), who was known as "Bob" to his immediate blood family, but as "Jimmy" to most others, and as "Eric" only to his cousins, followed his father to Christ Church Oxford, where he read History. His career was spent in the colonial service, in Uganda, where he was a District Commissioner. He married Gulielma Fox (1914-2002), who had a son by a previous marriage, but he had no children of his own.

Bertram Alfred James (1866 - 1891)

Bertram Alfred James"Bertie" followed his elder brother to Westminster, where he was a Queen's Scholar. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1885, but his career was tragically cut short when he was killed in action at Thetta in the Chin Hills in Burma on 2nd January 1891, and buried there. Nevertheless, he left behind him a fascinating diary, the original of which is now held at the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham. There is a memorial tablet to him in the lobby of Westminster School.

Lionel James (1868-1948)

Lionel JamesLionel James (known as "Leo") followed his eldest brother Bobby through both Westminster and Christ Church Oxford. He spent 14 years as a classics master at Radley School, and the remainder of his career as Headmaster of Monmouth Grammar School, where he married the School Matron, Ethel de Pearsall Clabburn, and fathered five children, including my mother.